ALBANY — Scott Marr is not really one for playing mind games with his players.
So, when he says something, he means it.
Which brings us to what the University at Albany men’s lacrosse head coach thinks about his defense’s play to this point in the season for the No. 1 Great Danes.
“I’ll be honest with you,” Marr said. “I don’t think we’ve really been tested.”
That should change at 1 p.m. Saturday at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium when UAlbany (2-0) takes on Cornell (1-1), which has scored 26 goals through its first two games and has one of the top offensive talents in the country in sophomore Jeff Teat, who leads the nation in points per game at 8.5.
UAlbany, of course, is known for its own high-powered offense with senior Connor Fields and freshman Tehoka Nanticoke leading the way.
To this point, though, the Great Danes’ defense has been just as good.
“Our goal is to have the best defense out there,” said UAlbany senior Kyle McClancy, a two-way midfielder.
“And it’s been a good run so far,” UAlbany senior long-stick defensive midfielder Troy Reh said, “but it’s only been two games.”
Through its opening two games, the Great Danes have allowed eight goals. The easy way to nitpick that statistic is to point out how the team spends so much time on offense because of sophomore TD Ierlan leading the nation in faceoff winning percentage at 86.0 percent and the overall wealth of talent within UAlbany’s attack.
But the truth is that UAlbany’s advanced defensive numbers are just as impressive as its raw statistics.
“When they do get the ball,” Marr said of opponents, “we’re not giving them great opportunities.”
Per analyticslacrosse.com, the Great Danes rank No. 2 in the country in overall adjusted defense and are forcing the third-most turnovers when adjusted for possessions faced.
In simple terms: When the UAlbany defense needs to act, it does.
That’s not easy, either.
On a per-game basis, UAlbany has played the second-fewest defensive possessions in the country. Against Drexel last weekend, UAlbany was up 4-0 before Drexel earned its first possession and threatened against the Great Danes’ defense.
UAlbany senior defenseman Stone Sims joked having to wait that long for some action was bothersome — “I wanted to get some playing time” — but dealing with long periods of inactivity is part of the deal for the Great Danes’ defense.
“We have to stay ready and prepared,” Sims said. “It just comes down to never relaxing.”
That’s easier because of the makeup of UAlbany’s defense. Goalie JD Colarusso is a redshirt senior and the Great Danes’ main rotation of defenders in front of him is senior-heavy and doesn’t include anyone younger than a sophomore.
“We’ve got a lot of veterans on defense,” McClancy said. “Our chemistry there is very good.”
This Saturday’s game should challenge that group.
To some degree, Marr wants to see that happen after back-to-back blowout wins.
“We really haven’t hit adversity yet,” Marr said. “So we’ll see how we handle adversity if it comes to us here on Saturday. We’ve got to be ready for everything.”